We all feel stuck from time to time: in our jobs, our relationships, our bodies. It can be paralyzing -- that sense of being the perpetual fish in the bowl. But performance artist Erika Shuch posits that it can also be freeing. In her latest work, one window, Shuch and her company, collectively known as the ESP Project, investigate the spaces we are forced, or forcefully compelled, to occupy. "My goal is to show the range of confinement: the sweetness and hardness, and how these things coexist," said Shuch in a recent phone interview. It's clear that being stuck can be troubling, she admits, but it can also be grounding. "When we're confined in a relationship, we're confined in there for a reason. There's something good that's holding us there."
ESP's first full-length endeavor during its residency at Intersection for the Arts, one window was developed over the last nine months with three dancers, one actor, and one beat-boxer/accordion player/violinist. It takes place in a world of plastic and wood; in fact, much of the set is erected during the show as the performers build the walls that surround them.
Though the piece moves through many locations and emotional spaces, it centers on the relationship between two people in an apartment. Like the choreography and the set, the text, written by local playwright Philip Kan Gotanda, also depicts the dual nature of confinement. Says one character, "I have this dream. I'm underwater, yet I can breathe." One window opens Thursday at 8 p.m. (and continues through May 7) at Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia (at 15th Street), S.F. Admission is $9-15; call 626-3311 or visit www.theintersection.org. -- Karen Macklin
With a CD called Funnier Than God and a promise that its show is "more fun than a gorilla with a martini," Sacramento-based quintet I Can't Believe It's Not Comedy isn't shy about the appeal of its irreverent tomfoolery. The group brings its warped humor to San Francisco for two nights with skits like "Satan's Receptionist," in which a self-pitying nobody seeks advice from a hellish secretary, as well as a hilarious think piece that skewers a vegan public service announcement. The guffaws begin at 8 p.m. on Friday and 8 and 10 p.m. on Saturday at the Dark Room, 2263 Mission (at 18th Street), S.F. Admission is $10; call 401-7987 or visit www.darkroomsf.com. -- Jane Tunks
Navigating the terrain of a rocky adolescence is hard enough. But for Kimberly Akimbo, the protagonist of a play of the same name, it's even harder. Turns out the whip-smart whippersnapper has progeria, a disease that makes her age at four times the normal rate. This clever plot device ensures all sorts of awkward situations. For example, Kimberly experiences the hot flashes of menopause before the butterflies of a first kiss. But despite a drunkard father, a loudmouth mother, and an ex-con aunt, the girl offers clear-eyed meditations on the trials of life and death -- and yet still experiences all the joy and pain of first love, with a fellow misfit. The play previews on Thursday at 8 p.m. (and continues through May 21) at the SF Playhouse, 536 Sutter (at Powell), S.F. Admission is $15-50; call 677-9596 or go to www.sfplayhouse.org. -- Jane Tunks
Toy Story Shake, rattle, and roll
Toychestra's history alone will probably charm you. In 1996, the band formed when Paula Alexander recruited a group of women to play a music festival at Hotel Utah. At their first practice together, someone brought instruments, but Lexa Walsh brought toys -- toy trumpets, toy pianos, and so on -- and the playthings won out, setting off the band's 10-year run creating adult music with kid instruments.
Onstage Toychestra wears appropriately wacky wigs and costumes, playing experimental music from ambient to kitsch to loose covers of Martin Denny and Dvorák. But the group is no joke: It recently hooked up with avant-garde guitarist Fred Frith and cut a CD, What Leave Behind, and toured Europe. The racket starts as Emma Zunz opens at 10 p.m. at the Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk (at Post), S.F. Admission is $6; call 923-0923 or visit www.hemlocktavern.com. -- Michael Leaverton
Feel Like Makin' ...
Our friend Allen called us one day. "You should see the Lovemakers," he said. We were impressed; Allen doesn't like much of anything, usually. Why this band? "They're super-hot. And the lead girl, she's really sexy!" Sheesh. But this guy has great taste in music, so we checked out the Lovemakers, even though we were sure weightlifting had rotted our pal's brain. We're happy to report that we were wrong, and he was right. The Lovemakers are a fantastic act with good songs ("Internet Girlfriend," for example) and a silly attitude toward being super-hot. DJ Shaun Slaughter and Stiletta open at 9:30 p.m. at Café Du Nord, 2170 Market (at Sanchez), S.F. Admission is $10; call 861-5016 or visit www.cafedunord.com.